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Harland Bartholomew was trained as a civil engineer. In 1919, he founded the urban planning firm Harland Bartholomew and Associates in St. Louis. He used an innovative approach to planning design: engineers, architects and landscape architects worked as a team. His firm created comprehensive plans for hundreds of cities, predominately in the US.
His scientific approach influenced the evolution of planning as a discipline. He also introduced public participation into the process of planning in the form of citizen advisory committees. The firm was respected and experienced by the time it was engaged by the Vancouver Town Planning Commission. Bartholomew died in 1989 at the age of 100.
The Vancouver Town Planning Commission was established by Vancouver City Council February 1, 1926 with the authority to prepare and maintain a town plan, including harbour, railway, rapid-transit, and street-railway plans, and to carry out the land use designations and regulations called for in the plan.
The first comprehensive town plan was prepared for the Commission by Harland Bartholomew and Associates in 1928 and revised in 1929 to include the newly added municipalities of South Vancouver and Point Grey. After Vancouver’s amalgamation with South Vancouver and Point Grey, the Town Planning Commission contracted Harland Bartholomew and Associates to draft a new Zoning By-law.
Bartholomew’s company wrote numerous follow-up planning reports between 1944 and 1948. In consultation with the Town Planning Commission and Harland Bartholomew and Associates, City Council decided in 1950 that city planning had become sufficiently complex to require a dedicated Planning Department, which was in place by 1952.